Lawlor on officials, the introduction of VAR and a festival of football over the weekend
Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) chief executive Gerard Lawlor has admitted that the standard of refereeing is a threat to the progress of the Irish League.
A number of high-profile Premiership managers have slammed the officiating this season and Lawlor insists that he is searching for solutions to the problem and has spoken to his counterpart at the Irish FA, Patrick Nelson, about this burning issue in the game.
In an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph about a range of topics, Lawlor added that he had sympathy for referees and that they had to be supported and not continually “crushed”, pointing out that players and managers had a part to play in that.
To that end, NIFL are operating a pilot scheme for Premiership games this weekend when managers will be asked for feedback on the performances of officials.
Another innovation that Lawlor expects to come in some form to Irish League football in the future is VAR (Video Assistant Referee) which has caused so much controversy in the English Premier League.
“The playing standard in the Irish League has improved. Everything else is moving on but has refereeing in Northern Ireland caught up with the rest of the game? I think I would be very naive if I answered that question with yes. There are concerns with NIFL about the standards of refereeing and I have addressed those with the Irish FA,” said Lawlor.
“Refereeing is a threat to the league and one of the major concerns I have for the progression of the league but we have to help and support referees. Players and managers have a part to play in that.”
On VAR, Lawlor added: “Do I think in the next 10 years VAR will be in the Irish League and will be a requirement of clubs? Yes, I do.”
Lawlor spoke about his hope for more outside investment in clubs, as has been the case with Kenny Bruce at Larne and Ali Pour at Glentoran, and a desire to look at Irish Premiership fixtures regularly played across the weekend from Friday to Sunday to complement the 3pm games on Saturday.